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Tetra Wines - Napa Valley


94 Points, Robert Parker

The name William (Bill) Hill has been a widely recognized name in California wine circles for more than four decades. His original winery, William Hill Winery, became a top notch Napa Valley entity and was ultimately sold to industry giant Gallo in the mid-1970’s. From that time, Bill Hill has taken a rather unusual path toward becoming one of the wine industry’s most respected (named to Wine Spectator’s Top 50 list in 1996) planters and vintners.

Hill was originally from Oklahoma and early in his career earned a masters in business from Stanford University. Sensing the importance of developing high quality vineyards in numerous microclimates that exist along the Pacific Coastline, he set out to establish himself as one of the top formulators of vineyards in the wine industry. At present, Hill owns and operates a large number of vineyards along various sections of the coastline of California, Oregon and Washington. He has had a hand in developing almost 40 different wineries and vineyard properties, arguably among the finest vineyards in the entire nation. His development company, Premier Pacific Vineyards, owns and operates vineyards that sell to the very top wineries throughout California and elsewhere.

“The simple fact is that Bill just loves dirt,” remarked Kevin O’Brien, general manager for Hill’s new Napa Valley operation named Tetra Winery. “He adamantly believes that dirt is the prime determinant of what winds up in the glass, and that’s what dictates the eventual fate of the winery.” For the record, Tetra means four and refers to both the four individual vineyards used as sources for its wines and also alludes to the fact that four different Bordelaise varietals constitute the wines that make up Tetra’s portfolio.

Since Hill formerly developed the likes of Diamond Mountain Ranch and Mt. Veeder Estates along with other notable properties, it would be easy to expect greatness from fruit he controls directly or though partnership. Such is the case with Tetra Winery, whose vineyard sources include four of Napa Valley’s premier growing tracts.

Fruit from Broken Rock Ranch, Coombsville, Sugarloaf Mountain and Suscol Bench make up the vineyard content for Tetra’s wines. Each vineyard contains a different varietal that is used in the eventual blending of the Tetra wines.

“It is amazing how the different grapes do in different years. One year, the Petit Verdot will be amazing, the next year the Merlot will be sensational. Since we are in the coolest growing area of Napa Valley, the grapes have the opportunity to hang longer and develop their characteristics. This really matters when we do the blending and produce our wine that will have its own distinct personality,” added O’Brien.

Tetra Winery made its debut in 2006 when it produced a miniscule 296 cases. The wines were instant hits and produced some of the highest scores for a first appearance winery ever seen. Since then, additional wines have produced exceptional scores and Tetra Winery is now accepted as one of the premier niche wineries in Napa Valley. Production has remained low, with between 500 – 600 cases being produced annually.

“We prefer to make our wines in the hundreds of cases as opposed to the thousands,” Kevin O’Brien further explained. “This allows us to make truly superior wines, on a par with the really great ones that come out of the valley.”

One of the keys to Tetra Winery’s early success is the winemaking team that Bill Hill has assembled. The team is led by Patrick Mahaney, a 24-year veteran of the Robert Mondavi Winery group. Mahaney’s last eight years with Mondavi found him in the role as Vice President of Global Wine Quality, an incredibly high profile position in the multi-continent company that Mondavi has become. The UC-Davis trained winemaker has played an important role in Tetra Winery’s development and initial early success.

“We have a really top-flight team put together,” concluded O’Brien. “We are on the cutting edge with regard to our wines, but in a really safe mode. Bill Hill is interested in new choices, but safe choices. We will always rely on the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux blend, but that blend will vary whenever great fruit is produced in one of our vineyards. We have already seen the possibilities from our early releases, but I think there are more really great wines in the future. Tetra Winery has created a great deal of excitement so far, and we intend to do the same for many years in the future.”



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